On the eve of the festive season I would like to share with you my thoughts on the months ahead.
But first I want to address the people we owe most in this organisation – the men and women in uniform. Over 60000 of you currently serve with distinction in NATO-led operations in different parts of the world. Your dedication, courage, professionalism and hard work are a credit to you and to NATO. The risks you take in fulfilling dangerous missions – in Afghanistan, in Kosovo, in the Mediterranean, as well as providing training in Iraq and helping logistically the African Union with its mission in Darfur – say so much about your commitment to security and stability goals. This commitment is greatly appreciated and embodies the highest standard of excellence associated with the Alliance. At this time of the year our thoughts are in particular with the families of those who have paid the highest price in these operations: your sacrifices will not be forgotten and have not been made in vain.
Next year promises to be just as active as the passing one. The whole NATO community – civilians and military alike – will be burning midnight oil to prepare for the key event at the beginning of April: the Bucharest Summit of NATO.
Important decisions await the leaders of 26 Allied countries. They will deliberate on the further enlargement of NATO, on strategic guidance shaping the nature of our continued engagement in Afghanistan and Kosovo, as well as on all the crucial projects essential for tackling major security challenges confronting us. This list includes such diverse topics as fight against terrorism, missile defence, new capabilities, energy security or cyber defence.
I am also convinced that coming months will broaden and intensify NATO’s dialogue and cooperation with our partners. We will strive to improve further a team-work approach with the United Nations and with the European Union. And we will also work more in the framework of the Partnership for Peace, Mediterranean Dialogue and Istanbul Cooperative Initiative. We will spare no efforts to resolve existing differences with the Russian Federation, to support reform efforts in Ukraine.
This is a long list of goals. But NATO is a busy Alliance. Projecting stability where it is needed. Building global partnerships, where they make sense. And standing as a unique forum for transatlantic consultation on security issues. All, as ever, to preserve the security of the citizens of NATO countries and the broader international community.
NATO will continue to make its contribution to international security in 2008. I wish you and your loved ones a safe and happy year. And once again, I send my best wishes, and warm thanks, to the NATO and Partner soldiers far away from home during this festive season.